Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Airline baggage restrictions have governed much of what we have packed, purchased, and carted about during this extended trip. Chicago to Vienna we were each allowed 2 bags/50 lbs per. One suitcase was dedicated to the gifts, clothing, and food items that we had been requested to bring or chose to bring to children and grandchildren. And, one of our 4 bags was the transport of KF's new stroller with all-terrain wheels--a fantastic eBay bargain.

The regional airlines--SkyEurope, Nikki, Ryan Air--each have their own baggage rules, usually restricting a passenger to one check-in bag and one carry-on. The weight limits varied from 15k to 23k--Nikki also weighed our carry-ons, limiting them to 12k. To put that in recognizable terms you take the kilogram weight times .6, i.e. not much leeway for acquiring any goodies.

We are learning to pack lighter--using our luggage space for U.S. purchases of clothes and housewares for our son's family. U.S. selection and prices can't be beat. Thank you Target, Kohl's, Home Goods, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Carson, Pirie & Scott.

Just try shopping for a family or outfitting a house in central Europe. Everything you need is here, but when you are accustomed to U.S.-defined needs you are always left feeling that there just isn't enough. Much is very over-priced, and acquiring what you need is far less convenient--you have to make multiple outings to multiple stores and then there is always that thing you forgot or never found... Part of adjusting to this new culture requires that you leave your acquisitiveness stateside. Shopping here is not recreation, it is a work-out.

At this stage of life I am totally signed on to less is more and am determined to learn to need less and less. Our house has been sorted through and streamlined several times in the 7 years we have lived there, and when I get home I intend to get rid of some more.

Not having a lot growing up influenced my shopping habits over the years. Making sure my family had the right clothing, shoes, and accessories was always important. And, we have always appreciated good food in our home--being willing to spend a bit more for quality and variety, but also learning where we could get the best for less. I still appreciate a good deal, but shop sporadically--not always in the mood. When I am in the mood, I have learned to stock up--gathering Christmas and birthday gifts throughout the year when I find just the right thing for just the right person.

As I consider baggage and all the planning it has consumed on this trip, my mind wanders to the emotional baggage that we accumulate and carry throughout our lives. It has taken me over 40 years to leave my childhood baggage behind. And, each year I seem to carry less and less of that baggage. Wish I'd known how to get rid of it sooner--recognizing it, naming it, and talking or writing about it appropriately provides release. My young adult and middle years were full of love and delight in the family we created, but my days would have been so much more enjoyable if I had a lighter spirit. Having been raised in chaos I learned to be over-responsible and hyper-vigilant to my environment--always taking in stimuli and processing and reprocessing while organizing and planning ahead for eventualities.

It will be interesting to learn what baggage our children feel they carry from childhood. We ask them occasionally and so far neither admits to too much scarring. We very intentionally parented our kids--unconditional love was the goal, underscored with accountability and consequences. Both DM and JE are good with money--never spending what they do not have. They have both chosen wonderful spouses and are themselves wonderful spouses. They love and discipline their little ones and are respectful of us and their grandparents. We certainly did not get everything right, but all those prayers asking for guidance and wisdom, patience and understanding were definitely heard and answered. God takes even our shortcomings and makes them work for his own good.

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